Watchdog warns of more tax increases
Last year Governor Brown’s Prop. 30, which received 55% approval, increased the state sales tax from 7.25 to 7.5% but if you think you’re taxed to the max now, just wait.
State lawmakers are contemplating ballot measures in Alameda and Contra Costa County asking voters to again double the county transportation sales tax from a half cent to one cent. ( The current rate in Contra Costa is a half cent and was last renewed by voters in 2004 (Measure J). Ironically, neither Alameda or Contra Costa County can seek a sales tax increase because doing so would put some cities about the current sales tax cap set by the state. Not to worry, however, a legislator has, of course, already introduced a bill exempting Alameda and Contra Costa County from the cap through 2020.
Nor do I doubt that Chief Daryl Louder of the Contra Costa Fire Dept., who is retiring soon, will persuade the Board of Supervisors, who will soon be voting on a budget proposal that includes the closure of two more fire stations, to endorse another Contra Costa Fire District parcel tax ballot measure. Last year’s attempt failed. Note, however, that plans for building a new fire station in Lafayette and Orinda are moving ahead.
Here at home in Antioch, our City Council has been busily trying to ramp up support for two revenue ballot measures e.g. a sales tax increase and a business license tax which would apply to rental housing despite seeing strong sales tax growth and a rebounding housing market. According to the City Finance Director current fiscal year projections indicate a healthy fund balance of almost $8.5M, significantly higher than the adopted FY13 budget, equating to an unassigned fund balance of 20.94% which exceeds the fund balance policy target of 15%.
According to the City Finance Director, the city wants more money because “FY14 presents new challenges for the City Council to begin to address as costs of goods and services are beginning to rise and salary increases begin to take effect in the current fiscal year.”
As I pointed out before, this didn’t stop council from restoring more lucrative pension benefits or defer payments from the Antioch Golf Corporation for two construction loans e.g. a $222,165 parking lot improvement loan and a clubhouse construction loan of $900,000 until after they repay an ABAG loan. Council also approved utilizing current funding for construction of a restroom facility at the Marina Boat Launch Facility which proved to be more costly than anticipated. The city will seek an additional $245,000 in grant funding from the state Dept. of Boating and Waterways which might not be forthcoming.
Additionally, Council hired a few consultants e.g. Stacey McLaughlin of Mountaintop Insight to assist in “team building and governance training” and Michael Bernick, who, I was informed, handles a range of issues for the City related to transportation and land use planning grants and other funding opportunities, to work with the Antioch Chamber of Commerce on a micro loan program called Kiva Zip.
Kiva.org., founded in 2005 and headquartered in San Francisco, is a non profit organization that allows people to make interest free loans via the Internet to people in developing countries. Kiva launched a more direct peer to peer micro lending platform, called Kiva Zip in 2012. Currently Kiva Zip borrowers do not pay any interest or fees. Kiva Zip is considered an experimental platform, and offers loans in the United States and in Kenya. Sean Wright, the chamber’s chairman, said he was told there isn’t another chamber or municipality trying to use Kiva Zip although private firms and nonprofits use the program. The City of Antioch should not be participant in this endeavor.